Yonder Mountain String Band | 02.21.04 | Columbus, OH
An excited and somewhat stunned Yonder Mountain String began their sold out Columbus show with "This is going to be shitloads of fun!" Playing their first Columbus gig in three years, the band commented, "We’ve been having some pretty neat kind of mind-blowing experiences lately with towns we haven't played in a while... suddenly there's people there!" And people there certainly were. The Newport Music Hall sold out by 9:15 and packed in the biggest crowd this fan has seen in years.
With Brandon Story of The Reeltime Travelers replacing Ben Kaufman for the last time on bass, the group's energy was at an incredible high, keeping the setlist light and crazy and the crowd on their feet. "Steam Powered Aeroplane" began the show on a lively note as the crowd filtered in.
"How the hell do all you people know who we are?" mandolin player Jeff Austin asked as he led the foursome into a rousing "Deal" that got the crowd jumping. Dave Johnston's banjo set the pace for this upbeat and playful bluegrass tune and the occasional "Go Buckeyes" was thrown in to replace the usual "Oh Sugar" backup lyrics.
Dave Johnston took over for song three with his tune "Loved You Enough." The band remained energetic and visibly amazed by the ever-growing crowd throughout this short but sweet song.
Halfway through the first set, the band began to break up into smaller segments to exercise various talents on other instruments. Brandon Story took over the guitar and guitarist Adam Aijala moved to the banjo for "Red Rocking Chair," a soulful and moving version of coal miner Dock Boggs' bluegrass classic.
Jeff Austin returned to the stage for a funky "Cuckoo's Nest" that put his mandolin to the test. Dave rejoined the duo for "The Gold Rush," an instrumental picking song quintessential to bluegrass music. Adding a little vocal scat and a "Do you feel the groove?" to the beginning of the tune, the band even managed to make this frequently played number unique.
B. Story, A. Aijala & J. Austin
"This is how I know Columbus kicks ass," began "Another Day" as the band held up the 32-oz beers that the Newport is famous for. "Another Day" sings of the tribulations of being on the road with sweet and sincere lyrics spliced by quick and sharp mandolin riffs.
YMSB brought set I to a close with "Boatman," making sure that the crowd knew that they'd be back for another LONG set in just a few. The lyrics of "Boatman" command the crowd to dance, sometimes with "a hole in your pants," sometime with "Dave Johnston in your pants." The perfect set-closer, this tune left the crowd dancing long into the set break, picking up on the filler music and keeping the energy high for Set II.
"Sideshow Blues" picked up where the band had left off, taunting the crowd with "I hope you got more than that in ya!" as the foursome retook the stage. Expressing their pleasure again at the turnout, the band introduced this tune as being dedicated to each and every person in the room. "Free the bass!" brought attention to Brandon Story's impressive solos throughout this down and dirty blues tune.
Adam Aijala & Jeff Austin
Staying with the deep bluesy undercurrent, the band moved into "If You're Ever in Oklahoma" next, cleverly placing J.J. Cale's "After Midnight" in the middle. The crowd responded wildly to this cover, knowing probably that this particular night, YMSB had every intention of keeping the crowd well after midnight.
After launching heartily back into "Oklahoma," the band took a slight pause to let the crowd catch its breath. New tune "Near Me" was well received just before another popular bluegrass classic, "Shenandoah Valley Breakdown" brought the house down.
The ever-popular "Freebird" tease introduced "Deep Pockets," a song dedicated to being broke and dreaming about having lots of money... a song it seems most of the crowd related well to. "Ramblin' in the Rambler" began with a plea for the crowd to make the most noise the band had heard yet during its two-week tour. The crowd responded with loud yelling and foot-stomping that continued all the way through "Hill Country Girl" and back into "Ramblin'." Peter Tosh's "Legalize It" appeared at the end of this medley and added a reggae element that the crowd could sing along with.
Giving props again to Columbus, YMSB made sure to tell the crowd again how impressed they were with how crazy the crowd was. "We've been playing music for five and a half years and we have rarely played in front of a group of people as psyched up as all you are!" Who knows whether it was the timing of the show, or the reappearance of a band that had stayed away too long... Columbus definitely seemed to have been waiting for this night for a long time.
A. Aijala, J. Austin & D. Johnston
"Freeborn Man" was laced with teases as usual, featuring "Blister in the Sun" riffs and a "Turn on Your Lovelight" verse and chorus. These popular covers were a highlight for many that night, transcending genres to bring on good memories for all, Deadheads and Femmes fans alike.
Prior to the encore, Yonder Mountain String Band made sure to let the crowd know that it would be a lot sooner than three years before they would be back again. "We will never forget this, I swear" ended the show and made even the long lines for beer and bathrooms worth it.
I: Steam Powered Aeroplane, Deal, Loved You Enough, Steep Grade Sharp Curves, Shady Grove, Red Rocking Chair*, Cuckoo's Nest**, The Gold Rush^, Another Day, 8 Cylinders, No Expectations, Pride Of Alabama, Dawn's Early Light > Boatman
II: Sideshow Blues > If You’re Ever In Oklahoma > After Midnight > If You’re Ever In Oklahoma, Near Me, Shenandoah Valley Breakdown, Deep Pockets, Ramblin' In The Rambler > Hill Country Girl > Ramblin In The Rambler > Legalize It, Red Tail Lights, Freeborn Man^^, Corona, Years With Rose > Raleigh & Spencer > Follow Me Down To The Riverside > Raleigh And Spencer
E: Let Me Fall
Comment: Brandon Story on bass for whole show.
*Brandon (guitar) and Adam (banjo) only.
**Jeff and Adam only.
^Jeff, Adam and Dave only.
^^”Blister in the Sun” intro with "Lovelight" verse and chorus.
Words by: Samantha Hanford
Images by: Mark Frost
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